District looks to ease class-size dilemma | SteamboatToday.com

District looks to ease class-size dilemma

Brent Boyer

— Large class sizes at the kindergarten and third-grade levels are prompting Steamboat Springs School District officials to consider hiring additional classroom aides and possibly a teacher.

The school year began Monday, and the district already has begun advertising two full-time aide positions. The first position is a classroom aide for a 25-student third-grade class at Strawberry Park Elementary School. The school’s two other third-grade classes have 22 students each.

“I’d like to get somebody in there as soon as possible,” Superintendent Donna Howell said Wednesday. It has been district practice, but not policy, to add an aide when elementary classes have 23 or more students, she said. Howell probably won’t consider hiring a teacher to start another third-grade section.

Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis said a full-time aide will provide needed help, particularly in providing individualized instruction and attention for students.

The second advertised position is for a full-time aide for the district’s new Montessori class at Strawberry Park Elementary. The multi-age Montessori class has 23 students and is likely to add another student by the end of the week, Howell said.

“If it was a straight first-, second- or third-grade class, we’d put an aide in,” Howell said. “I don’t think it would be fair to treat Montessori differently.”

Kindergarten class sizes have reached a level where the district is considering adding an additional section and distributing students evenly between Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools. All three Soda Creek kindergarten classes have 21 students. Strawberry Park’s three kindergarten classes have 19 students each.

Soda Creek staff is asking the parents of students in its two morning kindergarten sections whether they’d be willing to move their children to a new afternoon section. If enough families agree to such a move, the district will add the afternoon section, Howell said. The district also will work to move some children from Strawberry Park to Soda Creek in an effort to keep all kindergarten class sizes in the range of 16 to 17 students, Howell said.

“If we’re going to add another kindergarten section, we want to equalize the numbers at both Strawberry Park and Soda Creek,” Howell said.

If there’s not enough parental support for adding an afternoon section, the district likely will hire a full-time aide who will work with all three Soda Creek kindergarten classes. Howell expects to know by the end of the week whether an additional section will be added or whether the district will pursue a full-time classroom aide.

Howell said she hopes funding for the aides and potential teaching position will come from the Education Fund Board, which in past years has funded additional teachers for the purpose of lowering class sizes. But she won’t wait for Fund Board approval before moving ahead with hiring.

“We’re not going to wait until we get the money because I don’t think that’s educationally sound,” she said.

— To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234 or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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